BAHRAIN is taking a pioneering step to establish itself as the hub of higher education in the region, Deputy Prime Minister Shaikh Mohammed bin Mubarak Al Khalifa said yesterday.
He said that education was one of the government's top priorities with major developments on the way.
This will include training, in line with Bahrain's requirements for comprehensive sustainable development, Shaikh Mohammed said after the opening of an International Conference on Higher Education in the 21st Century.
The two-day conference is being held under the patronage of His Majesty King Hamad at Gulf Hotel's Gulf International Convention and Exhibition Centre.
The opening ceremony was attended by ministers, top government officials, presidents of leading universities and educational experts from around the world.
Shaikh Mohammed said that it was time to start taking steps and initiatives to develop higher education in Bahrain based on the government's strategy.
The Deputy Premier said organising the conference and announcing the establishment of a GCC private universities network will further promote Bahrain as a higher education centre in the region.
Shaikh Mohammed praised the role of the private sector in the development of the national economy by supporting education and being instrumental in developing higher education in line with the requirements of the labour market.
Ahlia University president Dr Abdulla Al Hawaj said it was an honour for Ahlia to host such an important gathering of distinguished scholars, educators, policy makers and higher education administrators.
"We in Bahrain are striving to assert its leadership in the area of higher educational excellence in the Gulf region," he noted.
"The patronage extended to the conference by His Majesty King Hamad demonstrates the importance that His Majesty attaches to the continued development of the higher education sector in Bahrain."
Ahlia University, said Dr Al Hawaj, since its inception in 2001, has been trying to take the lead in promoting excellence and social responsibility in all areas of higher education.
"Having been the first privately licensed university in the kingdom, Ahlia University is in the vanguard of private education in the region," he added.
"Its leadership in the domestic higher education sector is manifest in its having the only accredited PhD programme in Bahrain in collaboration with Brunel University in UK."
Mobilisation of education can generate a regional stock of human capital - true foundation of economic development and social progress in the 21st century, said Dr Al Hawaj.
"Higher education institutions spur human resource skills enrichment, which in turn builds the capacity to compete in a globalised world in which the knowledge economy reigns supreme," he added.
"In the context of the vital role that higher education institutions play in the destiny of nations, we hold this important conference in full recognition of how the creative output of faculty, researchers, staff and students enrich the human intellect without borders."
Brunel University vice-chancellor and principal Professor Chris Jenks praised the growing role of Bahrain as the higher education hub of the region.
"We are proud of our partnership with Ahlia University," he noted.
The keynote presentation was made by Jordan-based Philadelphia University president Professor Marwan Kamal.
The Deputy Prime Minister presented mementoes to National Bank of Bahrain, Ithmaar Bank, MTC-Vodafone, Gulf Air, Economic Development Board, Capital Governorate, BBK and Education Ministry.
Shaikh Mohammed also opened an exhibition on higher education.